Trophex Magazine talks to Michel Tissut from Gravograph

Established over 65 years ago, Gravograph is today the world’s largest manufacturer of engraving & laser equipment with over 500,000 machines installed and subsidiaries across the world. Gravograph established its reputation for quality and reliability with early computerised machines such as the 1986 VX machines, many of which are still in daily use today. Over the past 20 years Gravograph have developed a complete range of C02, YAG and Fibre lasers. Now part of the Gravotech Group the company has extended its range of marking technologies through a merger with Technifor, the world’s largest manufacturer of dot-peen engravers.

How and when did you start working in the Trophy/Awards/Engraving Industry?

My first experience with the industry was as a student in 1994 when I had to find a training placement. One of the major local companies was Gravograph so I sent them an application letter. I ended up spending two months working in some of the group’s European subsidiaries. After finishing my studies and a bit of travelling the opportunity arose to work for the UK head office, which at the time was located in East London. So I started selling engraving machines as well as laser engravers – we already had some at the time! Apart from a couple of years when I ran my own engraving business, I have worked for Gravograph since then.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

This would definitely be the people I have met over the years, both within and outside the organisation. I have been lucky to work in different countries and in a number of different positions, including technical support, application specialist and sales. The amazing thing is that despite the years I have yet to become bored with using an engraving machine – it is the same for most of my colleagues, and some of them have been with Gravograph for even longer than me. There is really something special about them.

What changes have you seen over the years that have had an impact on the industry?

The obvious change is technology, as with most industries. If we look back the pace of change really is accelerating: for the first 35 years, we were selling manual pantograph engravers. Then in the mid-eighties computerised machine appeared, and it was to be another 10 years before the first C02 engraving lasers started to become practical, reliable and affordable. There were some incremental developments on the lasers but nothing major for another good 10 years. So slow evolution really… up until the last few years. If we take Gravograph as an example, we have in the past 18 months launched five types of laser machines – not variations of the same model but totally distinct products with different types of laser sources and mechanics. Why? To be able to meet any marking requirement, on any metal, plastic or organic component and in any required configuration.  And some new systems will be launched in the coming months.

How do you think your organisation has contributed to/influenced the industry?

That’s an easy one to answer. I think it is fair to say that Gravograph has defined and shaped the engraving industry – to the point that, a bit like Hoover and vacuum cleaners, it is not unusual for engraving machines to be referred to as ‘Gravographs’.  The company’s reputation is also attractive to many within the industry and enables us to add highly experienced new members to our team.

The fact that we operate in many different countries and manufacture / support our own machines and software has provided many ‘blue chip’ companies with the confidence to invest into large scale international programs with us, in domains ranging from luxury goods to industrial components. Some of our large customers operate several hundred engraving machines, with at least one customer equipped with over one thousand engravers.

How do you think the UK leaving the European Union will impact the future of the Trophy/Awards/Engraving retail industry?

Our customers vary from one-man businesses to large automotive corporations but the overall feedback is similar: Brexit has created inflation and an unpredictable economic future, not the ideal scenario for long-term planning and investment. However it will also provide opportunities. Inflation has really driven prices, even for goods manufactured in the UK as some raw material or components need to be imported. The cost of manufacturing engraving laminate for instance has really gone up and led to a generalised price increase from suppliers.  We took the view that we should support our customers and despite the additional costs have not increased our selling prices. 

Do you think technology in the industry has kept up with consumer demand/exceeded it?

It is up to all suppliers to adapt to demand and also to some extent anticipate and shape future needs. Gravograph is certainly doing its best to meet requirements. We have significantly developed our machine and software customisation facilities, which are now able to produce totally bespoke systems – or as we like to call them, Solutions.  We are also working in partnership with other leading companies in parallel industries, so expect to see some very interesting products in the very near future…

Do you think 3D printing will become a cost effective way to create Trophies and Awards in the future?

I have no expertise in this field but it is clear that some significant improvements in productivity and running costs will be required. Even if this happens I believe ‘traditional’ trophies will remain in high demand.
What role in your opinion does the internet play in the Trophy/Awards/Engraving industry?

The Internet has provided many with amazing opportunities to create great businesses. Some of our customers employing in excess of twenty people and operating several engraving or laser machines did not have a business two years ago.  But there is a downside too, in the sense that the Internet makes it very difficult to realistically assess a company behind a glossy website: who are you really purchasing from? This in a sense helps us as Gravograph is a well-known company and in addition we have opened a number of local showrooms where anyone can see our machines. And if this is not possible, we offer free on-site demonstrations, as personal relationships are key to successful partnerships between supplier and customer.

Do you feel an online presence is essential to increase profitability and product range awareness for Trophy/Awards suppliers and retailers alike?

I cannot think of many companies that do not have a website. You want to be found easily and explain as much as possible what you offer. But as mentioned before there is no substitute from seeing the product and meeting the people you are going to deal with. In the case of mechanical or laser engravers, you will spend several thousand of pounds and in return expect a great system with great support. This cannot be assessed by just looking at a website. So the Internet is the perfect starting point, with product information, videos, etc and will certainly help develop your business.

How important is brand exposure in addition to product sales?

Both are clearly linked and all businesses aim to achieve as much brand exposure as possible. But this needs to be done with integrity and within means. Positive feedback from customers is the most valuable resource available and drives our business on a daily basis.

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